1                    We have moved to a new balance in education that is focused on quality and diversity. Quality everywhere, and for every student. You can see it rippling across our primary schools, and up through our tertiary institutions. ITE recently created a big ripple, when it was named by Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government as winner of the global IBM Innovations Award.


2                     We are moving up in quality, across the board. But it is not because every school is doing the same thing. Our schools are now more varied than they have ever been since the time when we brought four different school systems together into a national educational system. Not just through the new specialist schools –for sports, arts, math and science - but through mainstream schools developing their own unique strengths. It is the new diversity, building on the solid pillars of a national system, and it is bringing new quality and verve into education.


3                     We are moving up because each school is taking ownership of its own approaches, and bringing its own passion to play. School leaders and teachers are looking out for their students, spotting talents to be nurtured amongst them, and finding their own ways to get children of all abilities to move up. Young Singaporeans with a special talent or interest know they can find a path in the system that will help them take it far.


4                    This is our approach to giving every child a first rate education. As PM put it in his National Day Rally in August, “whichever school you go to, whatever your home background, we will help you develop your talents to the full.  The ladders are steep, but we will provide you many ladders to success and help you climb up as high as you can.”    


5                    We have to keep up the momentum of change that we began a decade ago, keep taking it forward in meaningful steps.  It is not a one-shot change, or a big-bang in education. But it means several changes over time, because there are many aspects and many parts in our education system, and we want the ripples to flow in the same direction, reinforce one another, and not come up against each other and lose energy. This is why, for example, we introduced direct admission into secondary schools and gave our universities and polytechnics the leeway to select some of their students on their own criteria. The flexibility in admission systems has supported schools’ efforts to broaden education and develop both intellectual and other talents, and has encouraged students who want to take their interests seriously.


6                     The changes add to each other, and we can already see teachers, students and parents responding. New peaks emerging across the school landscape, a new and more diverse crop of Singapore talents coming up, and new levels of excellence. We should keep education moving forward this way, and keep Singapore’s edge in Asia and the world.      


Nurturing Talents Everywhere


7                    We see surprises every day in education, surprises that pop up when schools provide opportunities for our young to discover themselves – to find their interests, find what they are good at.  We keep seeing real talents pop up when students try their hand at something new in school. And it happens across the spectrum of schools.


8                    Take Cheston Tan for example, who is in Primary 5 this year in Fuchun Primary. He started playing the violin in Primary 3 in Fuchun. He had seen a group of violinists perform in the school, and decided to join the string ensemble. He topped the ABRSM Grade 1 exam last year - next year he is taking the Grade 8 exam.   All in 4 years at Fuchun!   Cheston does not come from a well-off family. He is on the MOE financial assistance scheme. Father is a taxi driver, mother a homemaker. So no headstart with Yamaha lessons. He is where he is because Fuchun provided the opportunity.       


9                    Let’s listen to Cheston and take a quick look at Fuchun Primary, a Centre of Excellence in Music. We will also take a peak inside CHIJ St Theresa’s, which is helping students develop skills and character through Hockey.   



Ms Chai Ping Fong                                                                                    duration: 2’ 31”

Music Coordinator

Fuchun Primary School


Cheston Tan Zheng Ling

Pri 5 Student

Fuchun Primary School


Rahwani Abdul Samad

Sec 3 Student

CHIJ St Theresa’s Convent


Rahmuna Abdul Samad

Sec 3 Student

CHIJ St Theresa’s Convent


Mr Leslie Francis


CHIJ St Theresa’s Convent



Cheston:  I have never thought that I would learn the violin, or to perform for my friends.  The school has given me the opportunity to learn the violin.


Ms Chai:  In Fuchun Primary School, all our students learn three different musical instruments – the pianica, the recorder, the guitarlele.  At the weekly Art Jam, the pupils get to showcase their talents in music.  This programme also allows us to identify pupils who are musically inclined, such as Cheston.


Cheston:  I first got interested in the violin when I saw a group of violinists perform in my school.  I joined the string ensemble in Primary Three, and started learning the violin.  With my school’s support, my violin skills have improved. I am taking the Grade Eight practical exam next year.  When I grow up, I want to be a violinist.



Rahwani:  She’s Rahmuna, and I’m Rahwani.  We are from CHIJ St Therea’s Convent, and we are in the hockey team.


Mr Francis:  Hockey is a prominent sport with a strong tradition, which has brought fame and glory to the school.  Since the 1960s, the school has consistently produced national players.


Rahwani:  Before coming to this school, we didn’t know anything about Hockey, and we thought that Hockey was only for boys.


Mr Francis: At CHIJ St Theresa’s Convent, we have a broad-based PE programme that is for all levels.  The objective is to expose all our girls to Hockey, and to develop a passion for it.  It also serves as a platform for our character development and leadership programme in the school.


Rahmuna:  We really like Hockey because it gives us a sense of achievement and satisfaction. 


Rahwani:  We learn to work with each other, and it’s not just a one-man game.  Everyone in the team plays a part.


Rahmuna:  Team-bonding is also important because the closer we get, the stronger the team is.




10               That’s how it’s being played out across the school system – and surprises are springing up everywhere.  We are pushing for all schools to do something special. Every school can be above average in something.  By 2012, we hope that half of all our schools will achieve and be recognized for their niches of excellence.  


11               To support them in this effort, we will revise our funding provisions[1].  MOE will provide funding to primary schools that may not yet have an established track record, but wish to develop an emerging niche. We will also enhance our funding for secondary schools which have emerging niches.  All neighbourhood primary and secondary schools that wish to develop an emerging niche can apply for up to $150K as a development grant. And to sustain these new areas of excellence in the school, MOE will provide $50K of recurrent funding each year.


12               We will also provide support for schools that aspire to achieve excellence at the international level - for instance by competing in the various Olympiads or by putting in place programmes that will put them on par with the best schools internationally in certain fields. MOE will help to fund good proposals so that our schools can achieve these breakthroughs. 


Making Streaming More Fluid


13               Another shift lies in the fluidity that we are injecting into our ability-based system of education.  The fundamentals of our school system are sound.  We recognise different abilities and have students take different courses of study so that they can do well, and do not get demotivated in school.  That’s a strength of the Singapore school system, and it has allowed our students to perform at a higher average level than most others.    


14               But we also want to blur the lines between the different streams and maximise the interactions between students so that they do not get the sense that they are separate from each other, nor feel that their aspirations are boxed in.


15               In primary schools, we have moved from streaming at Primary 5 and 6 to a system of subject-based banding, which will apply to all students from next year.  At the secondary level, we have introduced more bridges between the streams. What it does is help students who develop later than others. It also helps many more students recognize that they are strong some areas, even if they lack ability in other things.  This year, 1200 Normal course students switched streams, benefiting from the provisions we have made for lateral transfers[2].  Over 20% of all our Normal (Academic) course students are taking one or two O-levels at Sec 4, together with their Express stream counterparts.  And this year, 850 N(A) students will also be skipping the N-levels at Sec 4,  as part of their 5 year through-train to the O-levels.     


16               We are also seeing greater integration of students in the Gifted Education Programme with the rest of their counterparts. The Integrated Programme in secondary schools are running talent-focussed programmes, enabling both GEP and other students with a particular talent to work together. We are moving towards the same arrangement in our primary schools, aimed at providing more opportunities for GEP students to learn and interact with others, and develop rounded characters from young.   


Having Schools Customise Learning 


17               Schools are also making use of the greater free-play in the curricula they can offer their students. More schools are developing variations around the national curricular.


18                 Many have taken off from MOS Gan Kim Yong’s Polytechnic-School Review Committee, which proposed applied learning options last year to enrich the secondary curriculum. Over 50 schools have already rolled out Advanced Elective Modules (AEMs) with polytechnics - a total of 36 modules in a wide range of areas.  20 more schools are making plans to work with Polytechnics to implement AEMs. We will see the addition of another 27 AEMs to the range by end of this year, in new areas such as applications of wireless communications, journalism and pharmacy. Some schools are going further, by working with the Polytechnics to begin teaching new, examinable subjects in applied areas next year.   


19               These applied modules and subjects are a valuable addition to each of these schools’ curricula. The students who take them are not just picking up new skills, but developing something of an innovative mind by doing practical things.  That’s the real idea – developing minds that look for something that has not been tried before, or want to create solutions to real problems.           


20                Let’s see what the students in Bowen Secondary and Hwa Chong Institution have been up to in their AEM lessons.                         



R. Kishen Kumar                                                                            duration: 1’ 20”

Sec 3 Student

Bowen Secondary School


Nicholas Woon Yong Jie

Sec 3 Student

Bowen Secondary School


Victor Gan Yixiang

Sec 4 Student

Hwa Chong Institution


Jerold Chong Yuan Pei

Sec 4 Student

Hwa Chong Institution



Kishen:  In the AEM course, I had the very rare opportunity to create a printer-circuit board from scratch.  This is very different from school because we only use the ready-made ones.  My ambition is to be an aeronautical engineer.  What I’ve learnt in the AEM course can be applied to this area.


Nicholas:  I really enjoyed the AEM course.  Unlike the past, I studied the facts just for the exam.  But now, I’m motivated to study the subject because I am passionate about it.


Victor:  At the polytechnic, we were given very advanced systems and powerful computers for us to work with for the whole process of the animation.  So this actually made our animating faster and easier.


Jerrold: For the 3D animation, I used the software 3D Studio Max 9.  This process of creating 3D animation involves three stages, mainly modelling, animation and rendering.  Using this software, I get to create life-like characters from my own imagination.  With the technology of 3D animation, there are infinite opportunities to what I can create.



21               Greater free play in the curriculum is also about allowing more free play for teachers. ‘Teach Less, Learn More’ (TLLM) is well under way in our schools.  We are freeing up time and space for teachers to develop more engaging teaching approaches of their own.  And we can already see how it is helping students learn better.        


22               In Marsiling Secondary, teachers felt that the curriculum should do more to expose students to the environmental issues of the day. So this year a group of Science and Geography teachers led by the school’s Research Activist, Mdm Koh Saw Eng, develop a non-examinable Environment Education Module (EEM) – 4 periods a week for a semester - for lower secondary students. Students use a problem-based approach, and work together on projects which help them understand the environmental challenges facing Singapore, the region and the world.  The teachers are now setting up an interactive Environment Education Hub to support the curriculum, which neighbouring schools will also have access to. Marsiling Secondary aims to be a Cluster Centre of Excellence in Environment Education by end of the year.  All the teachers’ doing.    


23               There are many other examples, of teachers who are working out good programmes to help their students move beyond a cut-and-dried approach to knowledge, and to appreciate the significance of the concepts they learn.


24                Our mother tongue teachers are taking advantage of the flexibility and space they have been provided following the major reviews of the four languages in the last few years.  They are customising learning to match the abilities and backgrounds of their pupils, and finding creative ways to make the languages come alive in their classes.  


25               But it is useful in all of this to remember that TLLM is a journey.  We are not rushing it, or pushing teachers through it. Our whole approach is to provide the space and resources to let teachers take charge of their teaching, and drive the quality in education. And as we notice an initiative working out well in one school, we spread the lessons and see how other schools can benefit.  In the closing segment of the WPS, PS and DGE will touch on measures MOE will take to spread these best practices across the board.          


Having Every Child Succeed


26               We are investing heavily in Education, because as PM put it in the NDR, it is our fundamental approach to uplift all Singaporeans. We wa,, , , nt to give our young the best start, the best education possible through our schools, ITE, polytechnics and universities. 


27               By investing in quality across the board in education, we make sure that Singapore remains a place where it is your ability and effort that determines success, not who your mother and father are or where you start off from. We must remain a place where education is a path for social mobility, from one generation to the next.


28               Many countries face the challenge of keeping up social mobility through education. In most developed societies, the mobility in the system has petered out. In the UK, opportunities for bright children from poor homes have declined, as successive Governments have prevented either selection or streaming of students in state schools. The gap in quality has grown bigger between the state sector and private schools which select students and often provide an excellent education, but are restricted to those who can afford to pay for them.


29               In the US too, the private-public divide in education hampers mobility.  Few students from poor backgrounds make it into the better universities. Business and government leaders are also greatly concerned about large drop out rates before children finish high school, and the fact that many who do complete school are short of the basic knowledge and skills required to compete in a global workplace.


30               So too in Japan, which used to be thought of as a bastion of egalitarian schooling. There is increasing polarization in education. With most state schools being unable to select or stream pupils, brand-name private schools are gaining in popularity. There is considerable inequality of opportunity.


31                The French do not have a private school sector. But an egalitarian insistence on a uniform education for all pupils has led to quite non-egalitarian outcomes. By age 15, 38% of French pupils have repeated a year at school. One in five in fact finish secondary school with no qualification at all. The new Government under President Sarkozy has begun hinting at the prospect of streaming children by ability so that they can stay within their age-group and progress, but the unions are hostile.


32               We have to keep a system in Singapore where every student is motivated to put in his best effort, and is given the best opportunity to move up through education. From the secondary level up, we allow schools to select students, and students to choose the schools they want. Selection is by  talent and ability. It is a rarity in state school systems elsewhere, in fact quite incorrect politically. But it is what motivates and gives opportunity to bright and talented  kids from less advantaged backgrounds. 


33               We must also continue to recognise differences of ability, and different learning styles, and give every student the flexibility to tailor a course that allows him to develop at his own pace and blossom. If we did not, we would face the problems that many of these other countries face - non-egalitarian outcomes despite the best of intentions.


34               We have an ability-based system, but one that opens up ladders all along the way, so that it is driven by each student’s aspirations. We are not saying “this is what you are capable of, and this is as far as you can go”.   We must keep enough flexibility in the system, keep open the ladders and bridges, and make sure there is always space for aspirations, so that every Singaporean feels encouraged to try hard, discover his strengths and go further. Some will take a longer path to get to where they want, but they often end up stronger as a result. 


35               Social mobility will get harder to sustain over time. It is more difficult than a generation ago precisely because education has already succeeded in helping many Singaporeans who started from poor backgrounds to move up in life by working hard and doing well in school.  Their children do not start from poor backgrounds.


36               But still, we see significant mobility taking place through education today,  and more so than in most other countries. Students who come from the bottom 1/3 of home backgrounds (in terms of housing type and parents’ education levels) have a 50% chance of making it into the top 2/3 of PSLE performance in our primary schools. They also have a 50% chance of being in the top 2/3 of performers at the ‘O’-levels in our secondary schools.


37               This is a great credit to our schools.  We have to keep this going as best as we can. We have to redouble our efforts to help every child aspire and succeed.


38               We are doing this through several ways. First, through programmes to help weaker students and those from disadvantaged backgrounds to level up.  SPS Masagos is leading a committee to find ways to reduce attrition in our system.  Within five years, we aim to halve the proportion of students who drop out at some stage from our school system, from the current 3% to 1.5%.   We will strengthen our efforts to engage at-risk students in their learning, and engage them in the life of the school.          


39               At the primary level, we have enhanced our early detection and intervention programmes like the Learning Support Programme (LSP) to help P1 and P2 children. This year we rolled out to all schools our enhanced LSP programme, which now provides a more focused approach to building basic language and reading skills. We also extended Learning Support for Math to all primary schools this year.   


40               We are also putting more specialist expertise into schools to help support students with specific learning difficulties. 10% of teachers in every primary school will be trained in special needs by 2010.          


41                  Second, we have expanded our financial assistance schemes, to benefit more students. We have also provided Opportunity Funds to all schools, with neighbourhood schools getting double the standard amount, so that they can level up enrichment opportunities for students from lower income households.  They are using the funds in meaningful ways – overseas trips, helping needy students own their own PCs, enrichment camps.  More recently, we enhanced the financial assistance scheme for students in Independent Schools, to ensure that no student is discouraged from applying to them.


42               Third, and most critically,we have good leaders and teachers in every school, not just a few brand-name schools. That’s the most important factor in our efforts to level up and create the best opportunities for every child.


43               It’s also the real buzz in Singapore education. Schools across the island, with principals and teachers who feel they can change things, and are trying out their own ways to help every child learn and succeed.  Good people, good ideas.     That’s how we still get 50% of students from the bottom 1/3 in social backgrounds ending up in the top 2/3.  


44               It is also how we get surprises everywhere, with talents being discovered in every school.  Like Cheston Tan at Fuchun. Or like Vivien Too, a Primary 5 girl I met at Ahmad Ibrahim Primary, who recently published her own Chinese comic book – it’s called “The Comic Garden”.  She must be the first primary school student to publish her own book. She had spent a year working on it when I met her, so she told me rather plaintively - "it takes only a few minutes to read a comic book, but a whole year to create one."  Vivien’s talent in art was first discovered by her Pri 1 form teacher, Mdm Tan Su Hui, who also taught art, and later by the school’s HOD for Mother Tongue, Ms Lim Siew Gek, who also taught the class art three years ago.  Siew Gek is a bit of a dynamo – won the President’s Award for Teachers a few years ago.  I understand Vivien is working on her second comic book now - I presume it will come with a higher price.     


45               Or like the debaters from Loyang Secondary, who surprised everyone in the Arena competition earlier this year when they clinched a spot in the semi-finals. All because their Principal Mrs Lu Kheng Lui felt every student should develop the confidence to speak well, and put them through a public speaking course. And challenged them to speak like her on stage.  


46               So we see surprises everyday, but they are not miracles, because real people are behind them. They are about good teachers and leaders in schools, helping their students discover new strengths.  


New Initiatives


47               This year’s initiatives are part of our ongoing focus on quality, on leveling up opportunities, and on customizing learning for students with different strengths and aspirations.  The measures are centred on helping our Normal Course students engage better in their learning, and go further.  We have also embarked on initiatives to keep the teaching profession attractive and professionally satisfying, so that we continue to attract, motivate and retain good people in all our schools.


48               Let me now elaborate on these initiatives in turn.




49               The Normal Course students are a key priority for us. They comprise almost 40% of our secondary students.  We want as many of them as possible to move on to post-secondary institutions so that they can pick up useful skills, contribute and earn a good living. They are also part of the creative and innovative team that Singapore must have for the future, in order to keep its place in the world.         


More Support for Teachers


50               Our first approach to enhancing the Normal Course is to provide greater support for teachers, through added manpower and training. The key, again, is our people. 


51               MOS Lui told me about a focus group discussion he had with several teachers who teach Normal Course students. He found them passionate about helping their students succeed. They believed their students could succeed.  In the words of Mr Chin Khen Theen from Bartley Secondary, who has been teaching Normal Course students for seven years, “If you can win them over, give them a dream, they will really excel”.     


52                MOE will provide more resources to all secondary schools with Normal Course students, to support them in their efforts to motivate their students, stretch them in both academic and non-academic areas, and give them dreams.    


53               MOE will establish a new category of professionals called Education Associates (EDAs) for secondary schools.  The EDAs will provide additional manpower for schools, on top of the teaching force that is also being expanded. They will work closely with trained teachers, and help teach applied and technical modules where they have the requisite skills. 


54               MOE will provide a structured pre-service and in-service training programme for EDAs, complemented by a peer support network.   We will give priority to schools with significant numbers of Normal Course students, before extending this to other schools. (37 schools will qualify for priority deployment of EDAs in 2008.)


55               Second, we will increase the Manpower Grant for secondary schools which conduct the Normal courses.  (140 secondary schools will receive $20,000 more every year.)   They can use this to obtain support staff or employ relief teaching staff to support their curriculum.  


56               Third,  MOE will create a HOD (NT) position in schools with significant numbers of N(T) students from next year, to oversee their academic and non-academic needs, and provide guidance for teachers who teach the N(T) classes.  The schools  will find it helpful to have an additional key appointment holder, to help coordinate and plan for customised programmes for these students.         


57               Fourth, we will provide additional training opportunities for teachers with a passion for teaching N(T) students and whose responsibilities are focused on teaching these students.  MOE will collaborate with the NIE and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) to provide a customised training programme that equips these teachers with in-depth skills for teaching and relating to N(T) students. We will also facilitate greater sharing of practices by tapping on the Master and Senior Teachers network to mentor and coach these teachers.


Enhancing N(A): Stronger Foundations for Post-Secondary Education    


58               Our Normal Academic students have a diverse range of abilities and different learning styles.  We see this within the same school, sometimes even within the same class. We can customise learning further for them and stretch those with the ability to take higher-level subjects.


59                 Because many of them aspire to go on to the Polytechnics, we need to strengthen their foundations, and prepare them to do well in their O-levels. We must also enhance the options they have for going to the ITE. Some of our N(A) students, including those who aspire to go to the Polys, will benefit from going through a more practice-based  approach to learning at the ITE.         


More Flexibility to take ‘O’-level Subjects


60               Since 2004, Sec 4 N(A) students have been allowed to take up to  two ‘O’-level subjects if they have the ability to do so.  We capped this at two subjects to ensure that N(A) students can cope well with both their ‘N’ level and ‘O’ level subjects.   Last year, 2,800 Sec 4 N(A) students offered either one or two ‘O’-level subjects. They have done well.  Among this group, 90% obtained passes and over 25% scored distinctions.    


61               Moving ahead, we will lift the cap on the number of ‘O’-level subjects that N(A) students can offer at Sec 4N(A). Instead, MOE will leave it to schools to advise students on the number of ‘O’-level subjects they can offer. This could help stretch the abilities of a few more able N(A) students and motivate them to do better.  (We will implement this from the 2009 Sec 4N(A) cohort. )


Encouraging Subject-Based Banding


62               We will also encourage more schools to spot abilities in their N(A) students early, from Sec 1 where possible, and adopt a more customised approach towards learning. Some of our schools have found that N(A) students with a strength in a particular subject are better motivated if they follow the Express curriculum in the subject from Sec 1.


63                An example is Assumption English School, which analysed the PSLE results of their 2006 Sec 1 N(A) students and saw that over one-third of them were quite strong in MTL. They were allowed to offer Express MTL since Sec 1, and some are in fact performing better than their peers in the Express stream.           


64               Zhonghua Secondary decided to go further. They have a relatively strong group of N(A) students and wanted to stretch their abilities further. The entire Sec 1 N(A) cohort was allowed to take Express Maths in 2005.  They are now in Sec 3 N(A) taking express math, and are doing quite well.          


65               Schools should find their own approaches to ‘subject-banding’, in particular for their N(A) students – letting students learn a subject at a faster pace if they are good at it, even if they are weak in other subjects.                  


Stronger Foundations for N(A) Students to go to Poly


66               We must strengthen the foundation of our N(A) students so that they are well prepared for post-secondary education. Currently, 78% of our Sec 4N students proceed on to Sec 5N. However, only 60% of our Sec 5N students then do well enough to be eligible for entry to the polytechnics.  Part of the reason is the steep climb that they face after gaining admission to Sec 5.


67               MOE has studied the issue carefully, in consultation with schools as well as the Polytechnics and ITE. We will refine the promotion criteria from Sec 4N to Sec 5N, to be more closely aligned to admission requirements for the Polytechnics. We will require 5 N level subjects in the aggregate score for progression to Sec 5, and make English and Math required subjects for computation of the aggregate.  (Currently a pass in English is required and the aggregate score for only 3 subjects is taken into account.)  This change will give students a stronger incentive to take their subjects such as Math and English more seriously from Sec 1, and apply themselves early to the broad subject curriculum required for Polytechnic entry.  It will help smoothen the learning curve over their five years in the Normal course.   


68               The revised criteria will take effect for those sitting for their N-levels in 2009.  As a start, we will peg the cut-off for 5 subjects at 19 points, so as to ensure that we do not immediately displace a significant number of students from going on to Sec 5. It is not shock therapy. MOE will however review the cut-off in future to see if further adjustments are necessary to support higher progression rates from Sec 5 to the polytechnics. 


Additional Pathway for Sec 4N(A) Graduates


69               In addition, we will develop a new, direct pathway to ITE’s Higher Nitec courses, for students who do well enough in their ‘N’ levels. It will provide an alternative to progressing to Sec 5.  


70               The increasing attractiveness of the ITE route can be seen in the fact that a growing number of students who are eligible for Polytechnic are opting to do so through the ITE route.   Last year, 440 students who took the ‘O’ levels went on to the ITE. Most of them enroll in Higher Nitec courses like Electronics Engineering and Biochemical Technology, where they benefit from a more hands-on, practice-oriented approach, before they go on to Poly.


71               Some students prefer this route. Like Tie Boon Hao, who did his Higher Nitec in Mechanical Engineering in ITE College Central and is now pursuing a diploma in Mechatronics Engineering at Nanyang Polytechnic.  Boon Hao said – and I quote - “I found my purpose to study in ITE, because my second year form and co-form teachers gave me a lot of guidance.  My second year in Poly is less difficult because some modules have been covered in my Higher Nitec course.  This helped me to grasp the confusing theory components. Now I am even helping some poly classmates with the practical components.” 


72               ITE will pilot a new curriculum track from 2008, for qualifying Sec 4 N(A) students. They will take a customized 10-week programme that prepares them for their Higher Nitec courses. With this option, the students can start their Higher Nitec studies a year earlier, compared to the current situation where N(A) students have to sit for their ‘O’ level examinations first before being eligible for Higher Nitec courses. 


Bringing New Approaches into N(T)


73               We want to bring new approaches into N(T). First, to enhance the quality of their learning experiences – so that our students enjoy their learning and see its relevance in a real-life context. And second, to enhance the quality of their engagement in school. 


Piloting N(T) Mark II


74               Some schools are already putting in place their own programmes to motivate their students - through elective modules in areas that spark the students' interest, and in some schools through extended or more frequent PE lessons.  These experiments are working well in engaging our N(T) students. We will continue with this evolution in curricula across our schools.


75                 But we will also go further by allowing three schools – Si Ling, Shuqun and Bedok Town - to try out bolder approaches in shaping their N(T) curricula.  They will continue to offer the core academic subjects of English, Maths and Mother Tongue, but teach them differently.  There will be new N(T) subjects which will count towards students' progression to ITE,  and a greater variety of Elective Modules. Students will also be given opportunities to do industrial attachments and internships, as an integral part of the schools’ programmes.


76                These schools will be pilots for what we call N(T) Mark II.


77               In Si Ling Secondary, students already have a buffet of elective modules to choose from, such as Digital Art, Food and Beverage, and IT-related modules.  To make the teaching of conventional subjects more engaging, the school is working with CPPU officer Mr Loi Guang You to prototype a 14-week ICT-enhanced Mathematics programme for Sec 2 N(A) students. Instead of a pen-and-paper approach, the students use tablet PCs and virtual manipulatives to work on their math problems.    The school is also piloting an Outdoor Education programme at the Sec 2 level, with the help of Cindy Ng, our Outdoor Education Specialist from CCA Branch.     


78               Let’s see what the students in Si Ling have to say: 


Gabriel Tong Sai Kiat                                                                    duration: 1’ 32”

Sec 4 Student

Si Ling Secondary School


Khairunnisa bte Kamaruzamari                                                 

Sec 2 Student

Si Ling Secondary School


Mrs Lau Kum Leng


Si Ling Secondary School



Gabriel:  My English is not so strong, so I prefer practical work, more than coursework.  I am really glad that our Principal, Mrs Lau, has given us this opportunity to have this Food & Beverage Course.  At the end of this Food & Beverage Course, we get a certificate.  This means that we not need to re-take the course when we go to ITE next year.


Mrs Lau: In Si Ling Secondary School, the majority of the students come from the low-income group.  They are also less academically inclined.  My staff and I have a common vision and passion to help students to level up in their education, by providing them with customised programmes to meet their needs, interests and inclinations.


Khairu (clip shows her participating in outdoor education programme):  My friends and I have been participating in the Outdoor Education programme.  When it was my turn to climb up the pole, I was very scared.  I told myself that I can do it, and I jumped.  After the Outdoor Education programme, I was more confident of myself.


Mrs Lau:  Over the years, we have developed skills and resilience to work with our profile of our students.  About 80% of them are able, and have moved on, to post-secondary education.  My teachers and I are indeed very proud of our students.



79               That’s might the motto for the N(T) Mark II schools – they can do it, and they will jump. The three schools will customise their existing N(T) subjects in collaboration with ITE and MOE, to bring about a greater focus on practice-oriented skills and approaches.   They will also work with ITE to offer new N(T) subjects that have greater emphasis on practice-based learning, which will be reflected in their GCE N-level Certificates and recognised for admission into ITE. N(T) subjects in areas such as mechatronics and robotics, computer networking, electrical technology and applications, business and health science and other areas are being explored.  We will pilot these new subjects from 2009 onwards.               


80               MOE and ITE will support these three schools through greater specialist support, so that they become niches of excellence in teaching N(T) students.   We can have real peaks of excellence in Singapore for teaching students who are suited to a practical approach to learning. We will also pilot a scheme to second ITE lecturers to the three secondary schools, starting from next year.   This will allow us to promote the cross-fertilisation of ideas and teaching strategies between our schools and the ITE. These lecturers would help develop and teach N(T) subjects as well as a variety of Elective Modules.  In addition, they will work with teachers to develop practice-oriented enrichment programmes for the N(T) students. This is similar to how schools are working with the polytechnics to create the Applied Elective Modules that I spoke about earlier.


81               The three pilot schools will also give students real-world classroom experience, through internships outside the school. Let’s hear from one of the HODs in Shuqun Secondary – Mr Adrian Tan - on the way he intends to go about doing this. 


Mr Adrian Tan                                                                                 duration: 1’ 13”

HOD, Discipline

Shuqun Secondary School



I’ve been teaching Normal (Technical) students for more than five years.  As any teacher who has taught Normal (Technical) students will say, they can actually be very sweet.  And when you have been able to establish a rapport with them, they know that you genuinely care for them, they will reciprocate those feelings.


Many of our Normal (Technical) students are kinesthetic learners, rather than auditory or visual learners.  That’s why we plan to introduce the Work Attachment programme because it will cater directly to their learning styles.  At the same time, this will help them to see the practicality of the things that they learn when it is applied to a real-world setting.


We will be looking at the syllabi for the various subjects, and pulling out elements that lend themselves very neatly to real-life applied learning.  We plan to pilot next year first, with a few work attachment partners, before we roll it out fully in 2009.  By then, we intend to integrate the Work Attachment programmes into our normal curriculum time.  We feel that this would really enhance their learning.



82               Si Ling, Shuqun and Bedok Town will each shape their own approaches to the N(T) curriculum. N(T) Mark II does not mean replacing one N(T) curriculum with another curriculum, across all schools. They will not be copies of one another, nor do we expect other schools to be copies of them.  It marks the next phase in the development of the N(T) curriculum, where we will let schools take more ownership, and let diverse models of the N(T) curriculum evolve, around a common core.  


Strengthening the Quality of Engagement for Normal Course students 


83               Next, beyond learning – the issue of engagement in school life. Apart from more variety and choices in the curriculum to boost their quality of learning, we must also strengthen the quality of engagement in school among our Normal Course students, through CCAs and the whole range of school activities.                           


84               In Riverside Secondary, over a third of the N(T) students hold leadership positions – be it in the School Council, CCAs or in class.  The school finds that these experiences help their students become more responsible, and confident of themselves. Like Desmond Qiu from Sec 4N(T) – he was nominated by his seniors in the school to be a Company Sergeant Major of the Boys’ Brigade, and believes that his CCA involvement taught him discipline and helped him focus more on his studies.      


85               In Zhenghua Secondary, Normal Course students are also making their mark in CCAs.   An outstanding example is Zuhairi Ramliee from Sec 3NA – he is currently the President of the Students' Council and also a Staff Sergeant in NPCC, heading the Training Department in the school's NPCC unit. I met Zuhairi when I visited Zhenghua - upright, quietly confident, and quietly inspiring, I could see why the students elected him as President. He’s an example of how we give opportunities to our students, help them discover their potential and let other students realize that they are all the same.


86               Zhenghua has also collaborated with other schools in its cluster to engage a vendor to teach drama and visual art. Sec 2 and 3 Normal course students identified as being at-risk attend these sessions at Chestnut Drive Secondary every Wednesday for 2 hours. The students enjoyed this so much that the school found that absenteeism dropped on Wednesdays.     


87               SPS Masagos’ Committee studied the problem of school drop-outs in detail.  A key strategy is to tackle the problem upstream - enhance the engagement of at-risk students early on in their school experience, by finding out what sparks their interest and will keep them from dropping out. That’s the responsibility of every school. We don’t know who the drop-outs will be at Sec 3, but we can get every student involved in CCAs and activities, give them the opportunity to be part of a group, give them something they enjoy, so that they look forward to school.  


88               Coral Secondary – like some others, modified their time-table so that N(T) students  have more PE lessons in a week.   PE modules are conducted over a 10-day cycle, to expose students to different types of sports and games.  The Sec 1N(T) students have two more periods in total –  an extra hour, while the Sec 2 to 4 N(T) students get half an hour extra.  The PE classes are conducted across the streams, so that students get to interact with their peers outside of their classes and streams. The classes allow them to expend their energies, many of them form new friendships. They make them look forward to coming to school in general.             


89               There are many more examples like Coral Secondary. I encourage all schools to take a proactive approach, in using CCAs and other outside classroom opportunities to motivate their Normal Course students, give them responsibilities, and make school a key part of their lives.                     


Partnership with the Community


90               Schools should also draw on the pools of expertise residing in the community, such as the self-help groups and the Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs). The deployment of Full Time School Counsellors to all secondary schools is also providing a valuable resource – schools are increasingly tapping on them – not just for counselling work, but to find new ways to engage their students.      


91                Over 40 schools are currently involved in programmes targeted at preventing at-risk students from dropping out.   Some take the form of “time-out” programmes - these are held at a location away from school in a smaller setting, where the bulk of the time is spent on developing character. The models vary across the board but the objective is the same – to provide customised support for at-risk students, and encourage them to stay in school to complete their education. 


92               Tanglin Secondary for instance, has collaborated with Shuqun and the Student Advisory Centre at Clementi - to try out a recharge programme for at-risk students this year.  Two community partners - Southwest CDC and National Youth Council have supported it through funding.  Let’s hear from Charine Chai - a HOD/Pupil Welfare at Tanglin Secondary on how the programme is helping her students.          



Ms Charine Chai                                                                             duration: 1’ 37”

HOD, Pupil Welfare

Tanglin Secondary School


Md Sufian bin Musa                                              


Shuqun Secondary School


Elysia Choo


Shuqun Secondary School



Ms Chai:  The Student Advisory Centre aims to help students to come back to school, as well as to keep them away from trouble.  In our partnership with the Student Advisory Centre, W1 cluster has implemented this programme, called the Recharge Programme.  It is a four-week programme, where students, instead of reporting to school, they will come to the centre everyday for lessons. 


The student advisory centre uses a few interesting approaches to engage our students.  For example, movies are shown to help students engage in topics like conflict management.  Another interesting programme that students are engaged in is lively and interactive debates and discussions, on issues like “Why go to School?”  At the end of each day, students are also engaged in what we call the “Mind Gym”, whereby they get to sit down to some self-reflection and journaling of what they have learnt for the day. 


So far, we have been very encouraged by what we see in the change in students.  Firstly, attendance rates have gone up, and that is something that we are very happy about.  At the same time, students have given us feedback – very positive feedback, that they have enjoyed the activities.


Sufian:  I learnt about respect.


Elysia:  And I learnt how to handle stress at the Student Advisory Centre.


Sufian:  I love to come here because I love the teachers.




Remodelling AVI


93                Next, the issue of those who fail the PSLE, once or twice  We must  help those who are not be as well suited to a mainstream education, and who prefer a more vocational track after their primary education.  They need a different environment and different methods of learning.  NorthLight School is off to a great start, and has even captured the imagination of our mainstream schools.  The school is giving their students useful skills, and helping them build confidence in themselves.   From next year, it will take in students who failed the PSLE once.       


94               We will now seek to remodel the remaining vocational training centre – Assumption Vocational Institute.   AVI will not be a NorthLight replica.  It will have its own character, and find its own way to give its students confidence, and prepare them well for ITE. For instance, their programme may include a boarding component, to provide students with a nurturing home environment.  MOE will set up a Steering Committee to work with the St Gabriel’s Foundation and ITE so that the re-modelled Assumption Vocational Institute (AVI) is ready to take in students from January 2009.      





95               We must strengthen our emphasis on character development and holistic education.  This has always been a key focus of our schools, and given further impetus in the new approaches we are taking to National Education following MOS Lui Tuck Yew’s review. It includes instilling in our students the instinct to serve, and developing bonds amongst themselves and a sense of rootedness in the community.  The success of our education system – and of our top schools - is not measured by whether we produce straight-A students, but individuals who have a sense of duty, and a desire to serve society. 


96               Some top schools in the US and UK have found boarding a useful platform for providing their students with a rounded and rigorous education.  I have visited some of them with Principals and MOE officials.  They see boarding as intrinsic to the quality education they provide, and it is not aimed primarily at students whose families live a long distance away from the school. Their practice of boarding is aimed at providing a close-knit learning environment, with meaningful interactions among students from different social and cultural backgrounds, across age levels.  It instils a sense of responsibility in students as they learn to look after one another.  It typically also provides more opportunity for students to engage in intellectual exploration beyond the examinable curriculum.          


97               Five schools - NJC, RI, HCI, ACS(I) and NUSHS  -  have expressed keen interest in trying out new boarding programmes. Some already have limited forms of boarding, although they are mainly aimed at the foreign students in their schools.  NUSHS requires all its Year 5 students to board. 


98               I recently had a focus group discussion with some parents of students who have had experience with the limited forms of boarding that already exist.  Most felt that the boarding experience was highly beneficial, but only if it was long enough. They felt their children became more disciplined and responsible, and learnt to appreciate others. Dr Angelin Tan, whose two sons boarded at ACS(I), credits the boarding school for developing positive attributes in her sons, such as independence, discipline and responsibility.   Mr Singaram – whose son boards at Raffles Institution ­- told us that the boarding experience taught his son the real meaning of teamwork, and allowed students to build friendships which would not have been possible otherwise.    


99               Now let’s hear from both of them first hand.



Dr Angelin Tan                                                                                duration: 1’53”



Mr Singaram s/o Subramaniam

Factory Worker


Subramaniam s/o Singaram

Sec 4 Student

Raffles Institution



Dr Tan:  Well, I decided to put my sons in boarding school basically for more structured and discipline environment.


Mr Singaram s/o Subramaniam:  In my opinion, RI boarding programme has been excellent for my son, Subra.  I’m very happy that the school provided subsidies, which made it possible for my son to benefit from the boarding programme.


Dr Tan: I feel that the academic aspect is certainly addressed in boarding school.


Subramaniam: As there are other scholars overseas coming here to stay, I can approach them if I am in doubt.  And if they approach me, I am also willing to help them.


Dr Tan:  The non-academic aspect is also certainly a very important point of boarding school experience. Firstly, it teaches independence and responsibility for the kids.  They have to handle their rooms, to make sure that it is neat and tidy, and make their own beds.


Mr Singaram:  Many student activities are organised in the boarding school, such as courtyard dinners and sports.  With so many opportunities for the students to bond and play together, the students learn to work as a team.


Dr Tan:  The ACS Boarding School has a very heterogeneous population – children from various ages and also from different countries.  And this interaction with different types of boys would definitely benefit them in the long term.  I think overall the boarding school experience is really a very positive one, in terms of both the academic and non-academic aspects.



100           MOE will support the 5 schools to develop boarding as a new platform to strengthen all-round education, and develop character and bonds amongst their students.  They will try out models in the initial years as follows:


·        Some schools like NUSHS and NJC plan to have boarding by cohort.  This way they can organise the whole school experience around boarding - adjust their timetables and programmes, and weave studies, research, CCAs and enrichment activities into the whole-day programme.   


·        Small, vertically-structured residential communities with students of different levels (ACS(I), HCI).  It will allow for mentorship and interaction between older and younger students.     


·         RI and HCI intend to try out boarding with a focus on leadership development.  Students will have a stronger dose of team-building and community service activities, as well as learn about the ethics of leadership and decision-making.        


101           There will be different methods in each of these schools, and we will I am sure see them evolve over time. Overall, we hope to see our students emerge from these programmes with a greater appetite for intellectual exploration, and as stronger individuals all-round.   Schools will provide subsidies for their students so that boarding will be affordable for all.




102           We have the great advantage of a teaching profession with good people, people with real passion, spread throughout the system.   Our teaching force has grown by 19% in the last decade –from 23,600 teachers in 1997, to 28,200 teachers today.  These improvements are borne out not just in numbers but also quality.  Graduates represent about 70% of the total number of recruits every year, and the proportion of Honours graduates has increased to almost 50%, compared to 40% five years ago.           


103            By taking advantage of the less buoyant labour market in recent years, we have exceeded teacher recruitment targets and are well on track to reaching our target of 30,000 teachers by 2010.  We have also given out 356 teaching scholarships and awards this year, an increase of 40% compared to 2004.                  


104                   And under the Enhanced Professional Development Leave scheme, about 150 officers have taken advantage of the 10-week full pay leave to undertake professional development activities, and many more have registered their plans to do so over the next three years with their school.      


105           Our operating environment has changed significantly however, since we announced the GROW package last year.  More new jobs are being created in the economy. And it will become more challenging to keep up the pace of recruitment.  Graduates are being courted by employers even before they step out of school.  Salaries have risen.  Let me highlight how we will ensure that teaching remains a profession of choice.             


106           First, competitive salaries.   MOE has embarked on a review of the pay structure for the education service.  The review aims to restructure our pay system so that we continue to attract and retain good teachers and leaders in the service.  We have sought feedback from over 2,000 Education Officers from HQ and schools. We will study the feedback closely, analyse the market data, and expect to complete the review by the end of the year.          


107           We are also reviewing the Senior Specialist Track, to ensure we have enough pools of expertise within MOE.  Senior Specialists have deep expertise in areas like curriculum and instructional design, educational psychology, educational testing and measurement and research.  They play an important role in breaking new ground in the various areas of Education. They are behind the ‘top-down support for bottom-up initiatives’ in education.   The review will ensure that the Senior Specialist Track continues to attract the best education officers.      


108           Second, opportunities for professional development.  70% of our Education Officers already have a bachelor’s degree today - we want to enable education officers who wish to deepen their knowledge in education-related areas by obtaining a Masters and indeed, even a Doctoral degree. 


109            MOE currently offers Postgraduate Scholarships to outstanding officers to pursue further studies.  We also offer financial assistance in the form of interest-free loans to officers who want to do this on their own.  We are now exploring postgraduate study awards for those who wish to pursue a Masters or PhD.  The details of these changes will be announced together with the outcome of the salary review before the end of the year.             


110           Last year, around 90% of all schools sent 1,400 teachers (or ~5% of our teaching force) for Teacher Work Attachments, and 50% did some form of overseas stint.   I am glad to see more of them doing so – almost 800 have gone on attachment for the first half of this year, and we are likely to see another 1000 going on attachments by the end of the year.  All these experiences give our educators the opportunity to refresh themselves, be immersed in an environment different from the school, get a sense of innovations taking place outside and bring some of these experiences back into schools.  For instance, Hwa Chong Institution’s satellite campus in Beijing, which will be started this October,  plans to reserve two out of five places for teachers from other schools, so that they can bring their experiences back to Singapore.                           


111           Third, we are diversifying the teaching force, by bringing in more mid-career officers as well as foreign teachers.  They add to the diversity of experiences within our teaching force, and bring new perspectives to the classroom.      


112           There are around 6,600 Education Officers with at least one year or more of past working experience before they joined teaching.  Mid-career teachers make up about 22% of the Education Service, compared to 15% just five years ago.  More than one out of every five teachers is a mid-career officer.  Many of them have done well.   Mr Ng Teng Joo, Principal of Henry Park Primary School, was working as a civil engineer before he made the switch to teaching.  Mr Ng had taught as a relief teacher after he graduated from university.  He found the experience so fulfilling that he decided to become a teacher when MOE opened the application to engineers to join the service in 1988.          


113           We also have the examples of Mr S B Sivaganesh, Head of Department of Pupil Welfare at Canberra Secondary School who was a former lawyer; Mr Vincent Lim, Head of Department of Principles of Account, Computer Application and Elements of Office Administration at Admiralty Secondary School who was a corporate banker and Mdm Norlizan Binte Ahmat, a teacher at Townsville Primary School and who was formerly a nurse.  There are many more.  


114           We hear from some of our mid-career officers that they have taken pay cuts to join us.  Why?  Because they have a desire to nurture the next generation of Singaporeans.  However, their peers who joined teaching earlier usually progress ahead of them, even if they perform equally well.    


115           MOE has reviewed this.  We want to recognise the contributions of our mid-career officers, in line with those of other good teachers who joined the service after graduation.  We will adjust the pay and progression of new mid-career teachers who join us so that they catch up with their peers by their 4th year of service after their NIE training.  We will do this through higher starting salaries for mid-career entrants in recognition of their past working experience, faster promotions and additional salary increments upon promotion.  


116           For existing mid-career Education Officers, we will similarly close the gap between them and their peers in service through faster promotions and granting additional salary increments.  With the adjustments, all serving mid-career officers should catch up with their peers over the next six years, with 94% of them catching up by the fourth year.  The changes will be implemented from January 2008.     





117           Our job is to make each path in our education system a rich one which brings out the best in each student.   In every school, we have the responsibility of spotting talents among young, making surprises possible, and customising learning for every ability so that we help every child succeed.


118             We must keep our focus on meritocracy, so that every student knows that ability and effort is what matters, not his background. It will be a more lively meritocracy, as we allow for more free-play in the curriculum and more ownership and diversity amongst our schools.  But will also be a more authentic meritocracy in the way it recognizes the whole range of talents that will be part of the Singapore team.


119       And this is how we will create a mountain range of excellence - with many peaks, soaring high and inspiring everyone, but also with foothills that are also way above sea level. It is how we achieve quality for all in education and uplift all Singaporeans.           

[1] Currently the Programme for School-Based Excellence provides primary schools that have established niches with a recurrent grant of up to $100,000 per year. At the secondary level, we provide Niche Programme Schools with up to $30,000 over three years. They can also take in up to 5% of their student intake through Discretionary School Admissions.

[2] 645 students moved from N(A) to Express, and 543 students from N(T) to N(A).